Students and staff at the Department of Residential Life hosted an open forum on Thursday afternoon to demonstrate their commitment to providing an inclusive environment for the campus community.
The event, titled “We Hear You UConn,” encouraged students to sit in chairs by the campus spirit rock to discuss their thoughts and concerns on diversity with Reslife staff. Event coordinators handed out fliers with information on a wide array of topics including resources to report bias incidents, information about the Resident Assistant for Social Justice Education (RASJE) program and links to UConn’s Counseling & Mental Health Services.
According to an official press release, the gathering focused on the “value of open, honest conversation, and the importance of listening to others and learning about their experiences and concerns.”
“The event represents an opportunity to have a conversation about our community environment,” said Department of Residential Life Executive Director Pamela Schipani. “Reslife maintains professionally trained staff to facilitate the conversation about diversity and acceptance.”
The color orange was selected to represent equality and was an apparent thematic element for the gathering. Both the spirit rock and accompanying suggestion box where guests could submit anonymous comments to Reslife were colored in the eye-catching veneer. Orange symbolizes Reslife’s acceptance of all members of the residential and campus community regardless of age, color, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. Attendees were also given orange ribbons to wear to show their personal support of Reslife’s creed.
When asked if their decision to host the event by the rock was in response to the recent racial controversy that made national headlines, Reslife officials made their intentions clear.
“People have used the rock to say hurtful things. The recent controversy has created a lot of misunderstanding. We debated roping off the rock to prevent further misuse, but decided to host this event to remind people that UConn’s community is an open, welcoming environment. We also hope that events like this one will allow students to evaluate their own attitudes toward acceptance to determine if they need to adjust their behavior,” Schipani said.
Participants were invited to publically express their thoughts and ideas concerning equality by writing messages on the rock. One sprawling message summarized the event’s goals especially well: “I embrace and welcome a diverse community at UConn and will do my part to learn about myself and others.”